Barely a year after the death of the late Ikemba Nnewi, Dim Emeka Ojukwu, there seems to be an on-going family crisis. In this interview with ENYIM ENYIM, the first son of the late warlord, Chief Emeka Ojukwu, jnr, speaks on the rearing family feud as well as the life and times of his late father.
There are speculations that one of your brothers has filed a suit at a law courtagainst Bianca barely one year after the death of your father?How true is this?
Are you referring to Debe?
He has taken my father’s wife to court. He has taken me to court. He has taken my fathers brothers to court and even my cousins to court. He has taken the AIG of police to court and even the army command has been taken to court. Almost every body has been taken to court over one claim or the other.
I think that you would have to ask him why he is in court with everybody. And I want to remind you that while my father was sick in England, he took my Ojukwu Transport Company and the Directors which my father was a member to court. So, my father’s name was listed as a defendant. So these are things that you would have to ask him. I do not want to comment further on that. If there are issues within any family and there bound to be issues especially in a big family like this, it is best resolved within the family whether you are from the outside, or you are from the inside. Going to court or going to the police or even going to the press will certainly not solve the problem. All you do is to aggravate the system and it’s not good and you will end up creating more enemies.
Rumour has it that your father’s will has been tampered with. Is it true?
I have heard those rumours and people have asked me severally about it. Essentially, my father’s will is known to me and there has been a rumour and people are saying that there has been changes in the will. We are not aware of such changes. But we are watching to see. There is a rumour about reading of the will severally. Three months ago, there was a rumour that the will had been read without some people involved knowing about it. I want to wait and see, given that I know what my father said is what it is. You should also know that reading a will is a different thing from executing a will.
The family will have to look at it to see who produced these changes and what the changes are. If it is a deviation from my fathers wishes, then we will surely challenge it in court. I cannot discuss the details of my father’s will in the public but we do have copies with us.
Last Sunday, your family had one year remembrance of late Dim Chukwuemeka Ojukwu. People had expected that the South East governors would have been present. But on that day it was only governor Peter Obi that came.
Let me clarify something for you first of all. What happened on Sunday was the removing of our mourning cloth. It was not the remembrance. You remember my father died on the 25th of November and he was buried in March. The remembrance would be around that time. We as a family decided to give him one year of mourning from the day he died and that was why. We celebrated mass on the 25th. It is more of a private family matter or ceremony with some few close friends of the family. It was not supposed to be for the general public as such.
Soon after your father’s burial, we gathered that some members of the family organized a similar event before now. Why?
Some members of the family, you mean my father’s wife, Bianca. A lot has been said about this in many ways but basically, what happened was that the family made it clear that it is going to be one year and nothing less than that.
And she suggested that she wanted to do it before one year due to her engagements and the family said she is free to go abroad for her engagement but when it is one year, she has to join the family.
She insisted and that was why you did not see family members as it was last Sunday. But when the time came for us to do it, she decided to come down and join us. I think that from the way I see it, she got better advice from people and she realised that it was not right about what she did.
During the ceremony last week, Bianca explained that the absence of the Imo state governor, Owelle Rochas Okorocha was due to some other engagements.What is the relationship between the Ojukwu family and the governor?
Dr. Rochas Okorocha’s relationship with the Ojukwu family is excellent. Actually, he was one of the first people that came to us as the date was approaching and asked what we wanted him to do, whether we wanted him to be involved. And he has been coming since my father died.
He in particular knows about this event and got closer. Some thing came up that stopped him from attending this function but he sent a high powered representative to the occasion and he called us to tell us as soon as he knew that he was not coming with so much apologies. In fact, his assistance was great in every way. We do not have any issue with him. He has been fully with the family since my father died. He has stood with us at those trying times, so I reject any notion that the family has issues with him.
How do you feel about the contributions of Nigerians to your father’s funeral?
I do not know what to use to describe it. It is only the likes of Achebes, Soyinkas that can find a word to describe it. It was indeed touching and the assistance have been amazing I must say. We are talking about a man who seemed immortal.
He was greater than life. The notion that he was no more was indeed touching but the response from Nigerians was what sustained us and we have realized that his life really meant something and really touched our lives. You see one tends to take people close to them for granted and you may not know how great or respected he or she is because he is with you.
The response by Nigerians further opened our eyes. It was really a wonderful thing to see what took place during his funeral. You know there were events of course in Europe and America; all parts of Africa and the far East.
I will never forget it and I am sure where ever he is, he knows that he has achieved what he had come on earth to do. Maybe he did not take us to the promised land but he certainly took us to the mountain and showed us the promised land.
The national chairman of APGA , Sir Victor Umeh has said he would expose things about Ojukwu’s death and the role of Peter Obi and Bianca? What is your reaction?
Like I said before, internal issues about the family do not need to be discussed in the press. Some times ,we would not like it to be written. The comment by about some issues. My comment on this is that I’ll wait for Victor Umeh to tell as what he wants to expose.
Tell us about your father and your life with him at your tender age
Certainly, he was all that people say he was. Growing up, my father was a jovial person. He likes to play pranks a lot. He was a loving and wonderful father. We did not see him much because of the civil war but whenever he comes, we enjoy him so well. But when we began to see activities and the heavy presence of people around our house, we would know that he was coming to see us. We got to spend more time with him in Ivory cost.
The war was over. But the first few months after the war, he was quite depressed about the number of deaths during the war, about the killings and especially those under his charge that died. But after that, he came back to his normal self. He would play football, table tennis, play with people. He was indeed a wonderful father and a great one at that.
Can you recall an issue that took place between you and your father?
Sure, many of them. Some of them I will not tell you because it could be embarrassing. I will tell you one. You know that as you start to get old or coming up as a tanager, you’d begin to see muscles forming, you will begin to feel great like a man. I came home and perhaps I went somewhere that I was not supposed to go and I came in and saw my cousins and my parents.
He challenged me and instead of me backing down like it used to be, I spoke up and asked him what do you mean and by that action, something happened. His reaction surprised me. Instead of continuing with the argument, he just looked at me and said oh! So you are a man; good, good, okay, every body out.
Everybody went out and he locked the door and while I was looking at him, he started unbuttoning his shirt and I was just looking at him and I was about calling him daddy and what I heard was gbuum. He gave me a blow close to my chest and my stomach rose high before I landed on my back like a sack of rice. I couldn’t breath.
I was trying to breath or say something when I got another one gbum. When I got up, I jumped through the window and ran away. You know in Ivory coast, we did not have burglaries like here in Nigeria. I did not come home lfor about two days and in fact, he sent for me before I came back. So he was that kind of person.
When he discovered that you were now a man, how was his approach to you later?
By then, I was not quite a man and that was why I jumped out of the window. One thing I really enjoyed about my father was honesty. He was an honest man. Remember, when I was getting married for the first time and I asked for his advice, do you know what he told me? He said ‘my son, I am on my number three and I am not the best person to give advice, so just go and ask somebody that is still on number one.’ The man is indeed fun to be with.
But why did you choose not to be a soldier like your father?
It’s not that I do not want to be a soldier. I tried. When I came back to Nigeria, I wanted to join the army. Even when I was in Ivory coast, I wanted to join the army but my father said no, that I should join the Nigerian Army. He said that I was not from Ivory Coast.
He has always maintained that we are Nigerians. I participated in sports in
Ivory Coast and I qualified for Olympics 100 meters. I was faster than some of the people that represented Ivory coast then but my father refused, insisting that I will have to join the Nigerian team and not the Ivory Coast team. I was about fourteen or fifteen years ten. When I came back to Nigeria, I went to join the army and I was unofficially told that it wouldn’t be such good idea from the powers that be then. I tried even the French Legion but it didn’t work out.
Possibly they were afraid of your father and that was why they refused
Well I wouldn’t want to put words in their mouth about that. But I know that they have had enough of the first Ojukwu, let alone having another Ojukwu in the Nigerian Army.
Humphery Boigny of Ivory Coast was your father’s great friend, how did you see him?
He was like a father to my father because the age disparity was too much.To us, he was a wonderful man, very caring. He always remembered our birthdays and will come to the house with gifts. He will even remember what you like to eat. He was just fun to be around.
He was also a very powerful person and he held that country firmly. Not that they did not have problems but he was able to hold the country. I will tell you one story about him. As a young child, I liked something and you know children like what they like and we do not want to know if this thing is cheap or costly. So one day, at the palace in Yamosukwu with guests and friends, he had invited us to eat and enjoy with him and I like caveat and caveat is very much expensive. A little quantity of caveat is very expensive, about hundreds of dollars. But that is what I liked. It is also an apatizer before the meal. They will give you a little caviat and put it on a cracker about four or three.
For me, I was eating like garri and my dad and my mum were making signs, telling me to stop that they were doing it quietly so that people would not know, but the president noticed that and said, oh! my young friend likes caviat. He said he likes good things and it is good for him. And later on, we finished and went home and one day, two black cars came to our house from the presidency full of cartons of it to our house and said that they should give me and that they are for me.
Your father Dim Odumemgwu Ojukwu is no more ,what are the challenges facing the family?
There have been serious challenges since he died. People now have expectations about you and what they expect you to do now as the head of the family. People want to prop you up, people want to knock you down. But this is what life is all about. I miss him because there are things I would have loved to seek his advice but he is no more and the burden of the family is now on me and I have no choice but to carry on and I told my father that he will never be disappointed at me because with his training and teachings, I am well armed to carry on with the challenges that go with it.
Today I have to take some leadership actions and bring out money whether you have it or not and that is the way it is. It is now that I have come to realize the role my father was playing as it were and now, I am playing similar roles. I know that the man was on a mission and I know that it was not a mission one can finish in a life time.
One of the ways to carry on from where my father stopped is this problem in the party APGA. We have to find a way to stop it and settle all parties. It would be wrong that in his absence, the party that he gave his life for and nurtured would end up this way and the whole thing will derail completely. You were here last Sunday when Governor Peter Obi and Sir Victor Umeh met here in my palour and shook hands and I feel this is a sign of good things to come and we shall ensure that the matter is settled.
An incident happened on that Sunday morning when the MASSOB leader Ralph Uwazurike came with his people to your compound…
You mean early in the morning before we went to church. What happened was that Uwazurike was invited by Bianca and he was allowed into the family compound but you know, he tends to move with a huge crowd and he was advised at the gate to enter with enough security personnel for him to feel protected and that the hundreds and thousands of people following him would not go in because we were still planning for the event and could not accommodate so many people. In their characteristic nature, they forced their way in and started fighting the security operatives at the gate and things were about to get out of hand.
So I entered my living room and made some calls and that is why peace was restored that day. If you noticed, there were presence of soldiers, police and the state security service. And it was good that they took that control as it were and his men were not able to follow him into the compound. If you enter somebody’s house as a guest, you must respect that home regardless of any other thing.
Why did Bianca choose to invite him?
You would have to ask Bianca about that not me. Of course you know that even the newspapers seem to be attending functions together with him.
Was he afraid that he would not be allowed to enter the compound on that day?
I do not know. You may have to ask him about that. But Bianca is our wife and we are the one that married her. So she is always welcomed
We also learnt that there was plot by him to attack you through his members
Yes I am aware of that. That Sunday morning while were trying to keep peace at house. I was reliably informed that he had given instructions that I should be handled or that I should be assaulted and when we decided to call the police and other security operatives to take over security in the compound and at that points obviously all reasons had gone out of the window.
I thought that you are working together at what point did you have problems.
He is guest and he came to our compound and he told him what to do so that we have sanity in the compound but he choose to force his way and do as he likes.
It appears he left in a hurry?
Yes once the situation changed he had to go. I also heard that there was a plan to arrest Uwazurike on that day because of the act of lawlessness that happened on that day. I heard that there was a request made by security people that was there to Abuja for him to be arrested. And he got wind of it and it made him to go immediately.